Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Apparently, I can only write poems in Chicago

I am in Chicago for a week long training on restorative justice circles. I thought I was here purely for observational purposes and to do the specifics of my job more effectively. But turns out I am actually here because I needed a profound wake-up call about the values that guide my life, my need to be in constant, critical conversation (with myself and others) about oppression, privilege, violence, grief, and God. Having this space has revealed so much lacking in how I live now and so much work, personal and communal, that I need to re-engage in.

It also revealed that, so far, this city is the only one (aside from my hometown) that I can write poetry in. These came out of a day of amazing, heart-breaking, challenging, and convicting conversations about race, young people, and Chicago communities.

On the Misapprehension of "Urban Decay"

Excuse me.
I briefly thought your land was barren.
Excuse me.
I briefly thought your people were not here first
or came here on purpose
or had not survived
all that was thrown their way.
Excuse me.
I forgot how desperately life wants to live
into fullness of days.
Excuse me.
I forgot that it is we
who insist on burying green shoots
with the weight of the concrete dead.
Excuse me.
I believed the lie
that I am entitled to all that I have not earned.
Excuse me.
I have not earned much.
Just the view of this patch of green grass
in an urban forest.
And all of you beside me
and time enough to build something real.

Excuse me.
I do not know how long this will last.
Excuse me.
I do not know if I am doing this right.
Excuse me.
I will hurt you.
Excuse me.
But I need you to know,
how much I want you to live.
Excuse me.
All my apologies are empty words
when faced with the green shoots of your spirit,
making cracks in all that would kill you.


In my dreams, we are standing,
on what I wish the banks of the River Jordan looked like.
(I hate to ruin the illusion for you, but the real River Jordan is ugly-brown and filled with tourists in flimsy polyester gowns. I hate to digress, but thought you should know.)
On the banks of what is not the real River Jordan,
we are singing.
All of us.
And the light from our singing singes the night sky
like a Midwest thunderstorm,
and all the rocks are shaking.
And our God (yours and mine), she is dancing for joy
at the cacophony of all her beautiful, broken children
who have come so far,
at last.

This is what I want The Revolution to look like.
Which is why I always miss it.

Because, it turns out,
sometimes The Revolution is just surviving the impossible
with someone equally lovely, and equally broken, beside you.
Sometimes The Revolution means that the storm is over,
and the sea is not as large as you thought,
and you still have your boat.

We will not all make it up the mountain.
We will none of us make it out alive.
We do not always get as much love as we need.
We almost always get more haters than we deserve.
We so often get it wrong, fall down, rub each other raw,
wage war on our own hearts.
Or, at least, I assume you do,
if you are anything like me.
Perhaps you are not.

I want The Revolution to be big,
big enough to see it beyond the small, petty things
that make up this life.
But The Revolution is that you get fed tonight,
just like me.
That people call your child beautiful,
just like mine.
That you can get in the door,
just like me,
because it is not locked,
or too high,
or in an unforgiving space that wouldn't let you in.
That you will find plenty,
and I will give up abundance,
so we can meet in the middle
with our hands just full enough
of all that is holy.
That you will be seen,
just like me.
That I will be heard,
just like you.

This is The Revolution we have been waiting for.

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